26 june 2018






school photos







           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin



Well that's the scene-setting introduction over with. Now for the rest.

OK, had the rest and now raring to go. Al Murray. The best Murray since they made the chewy mint. As the periodic A5 colourful, shiny and, most importantly, FREE magazine dropped through the letterbox on 1st March, it fell open at "What's on?" And there, under Exeter Corn Exchange was a photo of Al Murray. Now I've seen him on television, watched his DVDs many times, but never seen him live. (He would say the same about me if you asked him.) Could this be the opportunity of a lifetime? A definite YES for him. I'd quite like to see him too. So, onto the corn exchange website. Only 4 days to go till the show. Might get lucky. But no. "Sold Out" on every screen. "Sold Out" as far as the eye could see. Oh bugger. Takes me days to whip up the slightest enthusiasm and to have it dashed so heartlessly, so quickly, well it's enough to dampen all future enthusiasm I can tell you. But, never believing anything till I'd proved it without a shadow of a doubt to my utmost satisfaction, I clicked through to the seating plan. And there, in sparkly flashing blue, among a sea of dull grey, were 3 available seats!

So, feverishly found a credit card, polished it and kissed it for luck. And within 3 minutes one of those seats was mine!!!

One minute later, the telephone rang. Oh no, it's a mistake and the seats weren't available after all. 'Number Withheld'. They don't want any retaliation obviously.


"We have a hospital appointment for your wife on Sunday. Can she make it?"

"Sorry, no, I'm off to see Al Murray."

It was meant to be. If I'd hesitated for just a minute, I'd have been travelling to quite a different theatre . . .

The day of the performance. Pinched myself. Automatic kneejerk reaction "Wasn't me mate, never pinched nuffink." Checked and double checked. Money, email confirmation, sandwiches to stave off sta(r)vation, camera, fresh camera battery, autograph album, no that's going too far. Wished goodbye. Luckily it wasn't raining and walked to the railway station past the Rugby Ground. And there, what did I see, but two gulls doing the rain dance.


Worth stopping for that but now worried that camera battery's not in best condition.

Local Station. Ticket office was unmanned. I'll have to use the machine then. Hate those machines - if you get it wrong there's nothing you can do. Inserted the card. Ah, Exeter Central. Touched the button. Brakes on, did I check it was a return? Too late the deed was done. Three tickets? Out, Return, Receipt  . . .  so far so good.

A notice said "The brightest Station in Exmouth". Hang on, there's only ONE station in Exmouth. Oh, it was referring to 'Radio Exe'.

'Exeter, the Gateway to Al Murray' would have been the station sign if I'd had my way. OK. in plenty of time. It was a Sunday but Exeter centre was surprisingly busy. Ambled towards the Corn Exchange. Quiet. Shutters down, locked, starting to rain, tumbleweed tumbling along the road, bandits in the bar opposite eyeing me menacingly. This wasn't how it was meant to be . . . . I know I'll go round to the back entrance. Closed and locked. It was 35 minutes till show time and everything was locked down. Have I got the day wrong? Have I got the time wrong? Have they cancelled the matinee? Is The Corn Exchange having a laugh at those who thought they'd bought tickets when the show was clearly sold out?

Then I had a thought. The confirmation said that if you collect the tickets at the box office before the show, you had to present the credit card you'd used to pay. Bugger and again bugger. I'd left it at home, or maybe the gulls were dancing on it . . .

"You come to see a show?" said two dodgy characters lurking by the back door.

"Yes, Al Murray."

"So have we." They made a phone call, shrugged and meandered off.

20 minutes till show time.

I know, I'll wander back round to the front. Suddenly Exeter was empty. Maybe aliens had landed. Maybe it was Saturday night and I was dreaming. Maybe, hang on, those forbidding green metal shutters were half open . . .

I'd already prepared my defence for the heinous crime of not having the credit card about my person. In mid-rehearsal. a lady said "You collecting a ticket? What's yer name? Here you are." I'd wasted both time worrying and good paper and ink printing that email confirmation . . .

Dashed to the loo. Goes without saying at my age. The urinal started to flush at the same time that I did. The water was quickly rising to overflow level. I tried to slow down but wasn't winning. Luckily the flush stopped within a millimeter of the top. So that's how they treat latecomers eh?

Ah, a programme would be nice to remind me, my children, my grandchildren and their children that I WAS THERE. £35? They don't get any cheaper do they . . .  (I exaggerate - slightly).

A lady occupied one of the three seats available when I booked.

"So you managed to get a last minute seat too?" I asked.

"Yes" she remarked, showing extreme patience in the face of a foolish question from a foolish theatre-goer.

"Have you seen him before?" she asked.

"Not live, only on DVD. And you?"

"No. I wouldn't normally come to see someone who'd shared a platform with Nigel Farage but I'm here with friends."

The lights went down, the curtains opened, the theatrical smoke puffed copiously from stage left. Al Murray entered stage right, muttering something about the f. A303 to some applause.

Here's where I include a few photos to prove that

a. I was there.

b. I'm adept at ignoring requests not to take photos till the start of the second half

You don't come in late. He notices. Two women did that and were 'forced' to admit that they thought the doors opened, not the show started, at 15:30.

We learnt that he doesn't like the middle east because none of 'em'll eat pork scratchings.

A callow youth was enticed to reveal his age - 16 - and when asked again later, with a beer in his hand, answered 18. Correct answer.

And lots more.

Any downside? Well yes. I wished I'd been accused of a serious crime that afternoon because I had quite a few good alibis. I featured on lots of ''selfies' of those in the row in front.